Chinese New Year of course follows the Chinese lunar (lunisolar) calendar. A month in Chinese calendar is 29 or 30 days whereas a month in Gregorian calendar is 30 or 31 days, hence the Chinese New Year will fall on different day each year on the Western Calendar, but it will always fall between January 21st and February 20th. The Chinese zodiac, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig, is the classification scheme that assigns an animal to each year in a repeating twelve-year cycle. The 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac is an approximation to the 11.86-year cycle of Jupiter, the largest planet of the solar system. Its significance is that each animal and its reputed attributes are used in a scheme to plan future action of that year the animal represents in the 12-year cycle. This Chinese zodiac is not only popular in China but it and its few variations are still used in many Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Burma, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The Buddhists all over the world also use this scheme.
This Chinese New Year occurs on January 28th, 2017, Saturday, is a rooster year. In Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is not just associated with an animal sign, but also one of five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. This year is a Fire Rooster, please be aware that Fire Rooster is not turkey which has a negative connotation. People born in the Fire Rooster year are said to be trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work. Some Chinese astrologers say that the Fire Rooster year will be a powerful one, one should be decisive when it comes to moving forward and when confronting love, money and business, best be practical and take well-proven paths to ensure success, rather than taking risk. Naturally, not everyone will take seriously an astrological prediction on personal fate, of course even less so on national fate.
Rather than believing in predictions based on zodiac, we can review a few facts and make a rational forecast about economic outlook for the year of rooster at least for China and the U.S. China's economy has been slowing down in 2016 whereas the US economy is gingerly improving. Since tourism is a good indicator about economy, let's examine the data that is available and make a projection. First, we find that the travel business in China is quite vibrant. In the Gold Week (10/1-7/2016), the inbound trips (domestic and international together) reached 589M people, a 12% increase over 2015 and a 24% rise over 2014, and in money terms reaching $478.2B RMB (2016) a 13.5% over $421B (2015). Moreover, the outbound travel reached 59.3M people (1st Half 2016) a 4.3% increase over 2015 with a 3.9% increase projected for 2nd Half of 2016. Another report by World Travel & Tourism Council, issued by CEO David Scowsill, has given detailed data on how travel and tourism contributed to national GDP for 184 countries, in which it has shown that China's travel and tourism ranks no. 2 (2015) in absolute size with a growth rate ranked no. 10, projected for 2016.
Another piece of data can serve as a good indicator for the health of economy is business travel. According to a report published by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), China's domestic business travel market, 95% of total, is $291.2B in 2015 (14.2% increase and projected 12.1% increase in 2016) whereas the U.S. business travel is $290.2B growing to $295.7B in 2016. At $291.2B, China has overtaken the U.S. as no. 1 business travel market. An earlier statistics compiled by Germany (World Travel Trend Report, WTTR) in 2015 showed that the ranking of top four countries in outbound trips as: 1. Germany, 2. The U.S., 3. The UK, and 4. China. If ranked by dollars spent by outbound travels then they become: 1. The U.S., 2. China, 3. Germany, and 4. UK. One may expect that when 2016 data becomes available, China may have risen to no. 1 spot in outbound business travel and more certain in Fire Rooster year.
In the week of rooster year eve (1/27/2017), a number of events happened which might add significance to the Fire Rooster year. First, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, visited the U.S. to have a meeting with President Trump. It was certain that they had a lot to discuss, strategic alliance, NATO, Brexit, world issues including China and Russia. The fact that PM Theresa May remembered in this week to take the time to make a special public TV appearance to wish China and her people a happy Fire Rooster year had to be considered as a positive thing for the year of Rooster and particularly for China. The UK has always been conducting a well thought out realist diplomacy; UK’s closeness to China perhaps motivated by China’s investment and Chinese tourists visiting UK but nevertheless positive for the world. PM May clearly stated in her well wish message that as permanent members of UN Security Council, China and UK will work together to solve world issues. In the eve of this Rooster year, China was forced to contemplate how to interpret and react to President Trump and his key cabinet members' hostile public remarks on China. President Trump signed an executive order to build a border wall between Mexico and the U.S. and expected Mexico to pay for it. It was no surprise that President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico was upset and cancelled his visit with Trump. How would the US-Mexico relation play out in the year of Fire Rooster is anybody's guess but clearly sliding down on the first day of Rooster year.
A New Year news that may possibly reduce the fireworks in the year of Rooster is also worth mentioning. The Commission of Mainland Affairs of Taiwan's Executive Yuan aired a video on TV wishing mainlanders a blessed year of Rooster. The fact that the entire staff of the commission were in the video making a warm greeting can only be interpreted as an olive branch extended by the Taiwan government in the midst of the hostile air between the U.S. and China created by the Trump team by suggesting that the One China policy may be scrapped. Since China regards the One China policy as the bed rock of the US-China relation and a redline defining China's core interest, any action crossing that line may cause the Mainland to take Taiwan by force. The warm greeting message offered by the Commission of Mainland Affairs publicly is definitely a nice gesture in the New Fire Rooster Year.
Finally, President Putin and President Trump deciding to have a phone conversation on the Chinese New Year day, January 28, Saturday, may also be a significant event. This phone call may initiate a new relationship between the U.S. and Russia. This phone call may also set a new game rule related to managing international order with or without China. Hence, the year of Rooster will surely begin with suspense (an uncertain US China policy, a new US-China-Russia trilateral relationship), resetting Europe policy (UK Brexit and NATO fate) and tricky trade negotiations (with Mexico, China, Canada, South Korea, Japan and other trading partners to make America great again). The new US Administration seems to be overly anxious to stir up challenges before completing their orientation course, is that a sign of rooster crowing?!
Ifay Chang. Ph.D. Producer/Host, Community Education - Scrammble Game Show, Weekly TV Columnist, www.us-chinaforum.org . Trustee, Somers Central School District